Sense & Centsibility Blog
Words on post it note: Gratitude Chnages Everything.  Cup of coffee and pen next to post-it note.

How Gratitude Can Increase Financial Wellness

It is the month of Thanksgiving. There is so much to be grateful for, and writing a blog about gratitude was very fitting; but what do money and gratitude have to do with one another? More than I ever could have realized.

Defining Gratitude

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines gratitude as “the state of being grateful,” or “thankfulness.” Gratitude is listed as a noun. Why the grammar lesson? Well, a noun is a person, place, or thing. When people talk or write about gratitude, they frequently write about practicing gratitude, which has made me think of gratitude as more of a verb. Yes, it’s a state of being, but that state of being doesn’t happen without practicing it. To practice gratitude implies making a change from one state of being to another, more like an action than a description of an object to me.

This got me wondering. What is the implied original state of being we are changing from? I flipped through the thesaurus section on Merriam-Webster’s website and saw the antonyms to gratitude: ingratitude, ungratefulness, thanklessness, and unappreciation. That final word, unappreciation, hit me. How often do we go through our daily activities taking everything for granted? We’re not being ungrateful or unthankful, just simply not appreciating the many good things that are in our lives.

Gratitude for Conveniences and People Who Support Us

Then, I remembered a gratitude meditation that I had listened to from Greater Good Magazine, which is published by the Greater Good Science Center based at the University of California, Berkley. During this five-minute meditation, the narrator invites you to ponder several statements. Two of them really stuck with me:

  1. Think about all the things we have today that make our lives easier and more comfortable than they were for our great-grandparents.
  2. Think of all the millions of people in the world who have worked so hard – many without even knowing you at all – to make your life easier and more comfortable.

When I focused on everything I have in my life that makes it easier and more comfortable than my great-grandparents’ – my dishwasher, washing machine, clothes dryer, vacuum cleaner, HVAC system, a car to get me safely from point A to point B, and the abundance and accessibility of food – it’s eye-opening to say the least.

When I turned my attention to the millions of people who work incredibly hard every day to make life easier and more comfortable for the rest of us – teachers, day care providers, nurses, doctors, delivery truck drivers, farmers, grocery store employees, restaurant owners and employees, artists and musicians, among many others – I was humbled. I have never stopped to acknowledge how much easier my life is because of the work of others. It also allowed me to recognize that some of the things I do make others’ lives easier and/or more comfortable.

Stories and Research in Gratitude and Financial Wellness

So, what does all of this have to do with money? Well, besides helping people get happier, healthier, less stressed out, and more optimistic over all, gratitude can help you transform your finances, according to an article I read on Forbes magazine. How can it do so? According to the study they reviewed, “Gratitude encourages patience - and thus, a more forward-focused outlook when it comes to your money.”

The article also outlined five different stories of people who started practicing gratitude and how it boosted their financial lives. The first four showed:

  • How patience with a business that was slow to become profitable paid off over time.
  • How a couple’s focus on gratitude helped them make sound decisions about costly car repairs.
  • How practicing gratitude made the writer invest and spend an inheritance wisely.
  • How practicing gratitude brought the author into a supportive relationship that helped her with her career prospects.

By far, my favorite story was the fifth story. The writer started a gratitude practice by writing down fifteen things that she was thankful for each night. Over time she realized she was spending less and less because there was less that she wanted. She wanted less because her gratitude practice made her appreciative of what she already had. It also allowed her to become aware that she placed more value on experiences than on acquiring more things, which allowed her to save more money so she could travel more.

A Personal Experiment

This weekend I engaged in my own mini-research project. I challenged my husband and myself to not complain for 48 hours, and we spent five minutes each night telling each other what we were grateful for that day and why.

On Sunday we ran our pre-Thanksgiving errands, which consisted of grocery shopping, a stop at Costco, and our traditional trip to a local farm to buy a turkey and some apple pie. Grocery shopping and a trip to Costco are never on my list of favorite things to do, but I was committed to not complaining and focused on what I was grateful for instead. While at the farm, we expressed gratitude for the work the employees there do all year and for their commitment to raising free-range turkeys without anti-biotics and processing them humanely.

I still spent some money, but was I grateful for what my money could buy and for all the people who worked hard every day so that our shopping trip was easy and our holiday will be more comfortable. Judging by the change in my mindset after just one weekend of practicing gratitude, I am committed to continuing this practice and transforming from a state of being unappreciative to one of being grateful. 

Gratitude is one way of increasing financial wellness. If you are looking for others, LSS Financial Counseling is here to provide advice and support. Our certified, nonjudgmental financial counselors can provide tips and strategies to reduce spending, eliminate your debt or increase your savings. Call 888.577.2227 to set up a free, confidential appointment, or get your support online.

Shannon Doyle


Shannon Doyle is Program Director for Partnerships and Financial Education with LSS Financial Counseling.